The Iowa caucuses will get underway at 7 p.m. Central time this evening. A few hundred thousand Iowa residents will gather in more than 1,680 caucus sites and finally, finally kick-start the presidential nomination process. We probably won’t know the winners of the Democratic and Republican caucuses until 10 or 11 p.m. Central. But, according to Tubular Labs, we already know the winners of the other late night political contest being held across social video (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine). Spoiler alert: Jon Stewart, who was one of the big winners in 2008 and 2012, isn't on the ballot in 2016. Let’s analyze the critical data to see if we can discover any strategic insights.
U.S. Politics and the Late Night Talk Show
Let’s begin with the number of videos about “the U.S. presidential election” or “politics” that have been uploaded by late night comedians. From June 1, 2015, to Jan. 27, 2016, a total of 779 videos on these two topics were uploaded by 11 late night personalities. And as Woody Allen once observed, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.”
So, who made the biggest effort to show up? Comedy Central, that’s who. The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore uploaded 155 videos, followed by the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, which uploaded 145 videos. They were followed by Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC.com with 140 videos, Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC.com with 101 videos, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on NBC.com with 72 videos, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS.com with 67 videos.
As video marketers know, platforms like Facebook, which rely on “feeds” for discovery of social videos, are transient. Half of Facebook video views come on Day 1. So, uploading new content daily or multiple times a week is a necessary strategy for “showing up” in these feeds. There’s a political analogy that provides similar tactical advice. If you are serious about running for president, then you need to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire early and often. It’s called “retail politics.” Or, as the old and oft-repeated joke goes, a voter in the first state to hold a presidential caucus or primary is asked, “Are you going to vote for candidate Smith or Jones?” After a thoughtful pause, the voter answers, “I don't know, I’ve only met him or her twice.”
Although “showing up” is necessary, it is no longer sufficient in an era when 500 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. So, let’s take a look at which late night comedians are getting the most “views.”
Which Late Night Hosts are Getting the Most Video Views?
Yes, regular ReelSEO readers already know that Facebook says you pay for a “view” when a video is displayed in a user’s news feed for 3 seconds or more, even if the person doesn’t actually click on the video to watch with the sound turned on. And, video marketers also know YouTube says you pay for a “view” when a viewer watches 30 seconds of your video – or the duration if it’s shorter than 30 seconds – or engages with your video, whichever comes first. And Vine uses “loop counts,” which indicate how many times people have looped a video, including on Vine and in embeds across the web. So, we’re comparing apples to oranges to kumquats.
But we’re comparing social videos about “the U.S. presidential election” or “politics” that have been uploaded by late night comedians across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine. So, I’d argue that comparing their share of 329.9 million total “views” is like comparing fruit baskets to fruit baskets.
So, which late night personalities have the biggest fruit baskets? Jimmy Fallon comes in first with 104 million views, followed by Trevor Noah with 79.9 million views, Stephen Colbert with 58.2 million views, Jimmy Kimmel with 33.6 million views, and Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO with 28.6 million views.
In other words, “showing up” wasn’t sufficient for Larry Wilmore or Seth Meyers. With only 39 videos, Bill Maher got more views. Hey, don’t blame me. That’s what the data shows. Even if we use other metrics, we see a similar picture. For example, let’s look at the 7.2 million engagements that all these social videos generated. (Tubular defines “engagements” as Likes, Comments, and Shares.) Jimmy Fallon comes in first with 2.0 million engagements, followed by Trevor Noah with 1.8 million engagements, Bill Maher with 1.1 million engagements, Stephen Colbert with 0.9 million engagements, and Jimmy Kimmel with 0.8 million engagements.
Or, if we look at the 1.8 million Facebook shares that all of these social videos received. Jimmy Fallon comes in first with 553,000 shares, followed by Trevor Noah with 525,000 shares, Bill Maher with 373,000 shares, Jimmy Kimmel with 183,000 shares, and Stephen Colbert with 133,000 shares.
Is it About the Subject or the Talk Show Host?
So, what makes a video about “the U.S. presidential election” or “politics” that has been uploaded by a late night comedian “engaging” or “sharable”? One can assume that it’s “funny.” And we might jump to the conclusion that some comedians are just funnier than others.
But, if you drill deeper into the data, you come up with some other strategic insights. For example, Jimmy Fallon gets more than 1,445,000 views per video, to top all of the other late night personalities. In second place is Stephen Colbert with 869,000 views per video. And in third place is Bill Maher with 732,000 views per video. So, a comedian’s distribution strategy as well as how frequently he tackles political topics plays a role in these rankings.
Or, the one video about “the U.S. presidential election” or “politics” that was uploaded by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver got an engagement rate of 4.4%, compared to 3.8% for the 39 videos uploaded by Bill Maher and 3.5% for the 155 videos uploaded by Larry Wilmore. So, what are late night personalities saying that’s interesting enough to spark the social reactions such as Likes, Comments, or Shares?
Or, Bill Maher got 9,673 shares per video, Jimmy Fallon got 8,214 shares per video, and John Oliver got 5,866 shares per video. So, what are these late night comedians saying that’s so incredible and of value that viewers will stamp their name on it and forward it to everyone they know?
Needless to say, we will be following both the U.S. presidential election and the late night comedians very closely from now through Election Day. I suspect that there are a lot more lessons to learn about creating a winning video marketing strategy across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine.